Friday, March 20, 2009

Special Olympics Bowler?

Dear President Obama,

I am a single mother of four children, three of whom have significant disabilities. In addition to working a full time job and several part time jobs to provide a home and a life for my children, I also devote a huge amount of time and energy to advocating for their rights.

I want people to know my children for the special people they are. I want their unique talents, their sunny smiles, and their unconditional acceptance of others to be recognized and not ridiculed. It is a never ending battle with school systems, medical systems, recreational organizations, retail organizations and church groups to have my children accepted and not ignored or made fun of.

During your run for the Presidency, I posted on my blog your recorded comments about your support for people with disabilities. I was impressed and I shared those impressions with everyone I could. I voted for you and urged others to do likewise.

But, your comments last night on the Jay Leno show likening your lack of bowling prowess to the Special Olympics left me less than pleased. I trust you didn't mean for your comments to sound disparaging, but for the viewers who may already have been in that group of people who take pleasure in disparaging people with disabilities, your comments verified their feelings.

I would love for you and your family to meet my children. My birth son, Chip, is 18 years old, heading to college this year, and has been a huge advocate for his siblings with disabilities. Ashley, my 14 year old daughter whom I adopted at age 2, is deafblind, has seizure disorder and currently has three brain tumors. But she is also wild and crazy, a typical teenager who can get in trouble at school for cursing at her teacher in sign language (fortunately the teacher didn't know what she was signing), and has a smile that can light a room. Jessica, my 18 year old daughter who was adopted at age 9, is diagnosed with mental retardation and reactive attachment disorder. She is learning to control her aggressive tendencies, and loves nothing more than playing basketball for the Special Olympics. She loves Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers and dreams of the day she may marry and have children. And then there's Corey. Corey joined my family 4 years ago when he was 12 years old. He was living on the streets of Baltimore with his drug-addicted, prostitute mother. He is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and developmental delay. He is in JROTC at his high school and dreams of joining the Marine Corps when he graduates. He wants to serve our country in whatever way he can.

These are just four of the people whose dreams of acceptance were harmed by your comments. Will you consider meeting them and showing them that you do support people of all abilities, and that their dreams are just as important as anyone else's?

Thank you, Mr. Obama, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


MMC said...

Apparently he's 'fessed up and apologized but I would say the harm is already done. On one level I would say it's not a huge deal (there is a whole lot of other stuff going on at the moment) but it certainly does leave a bad taste in your mouth, doesn't it?

And what struck me the most when I heard it was that being black, I would have thought he would have been especially attuned to issues around discrimination, exclusion and how painful and harmful that kind of 'casual' talk can be.

MMC said...

No matter a person's politics, you need to check this out as counterpoint to President Obama's gaffe.